For years, social platforms have been trying to capitalize on the link between live TV viewing and social engagement - or 'second-screening' as it's become known.
According to research, more than 90% of people now have their smartphone on hand while watching TV, and are particularly engaged with their devices, and specifically, social media apps, during live events. Logically, then, it would make sense for social platforms to merge the two functions. Twitter has tried to stream real-time tweets along with sporting broadcasts as part of its various rights deals, while Facebook has attempted the same with different approaches to Facebook activity appearing on the same screen as TV shows.
They haven't worked - and despite live-streams continually seeing significantly higher engagement rates than regular videos, no platform has been able to successfully merge the community and engagement elements of social apps with live event viewing.
Except for gaming platform Twitch.
Twitch has been specifically built around its community elements, and regularly sees huge levels of interaction and engagement within gaming live-streams.
User behavior on Twitch is entirely aligned around real-time interaction and engagement during the main broadcast, and as such, Twitch users seem more accustomed to interacting as the video plays. Which is why this week's announcement of a new deal to air Premier League matches on Twitch is significant.
As per Deadline:
"Amazon is planning to stream live Premier League fixtures for free on Twitch in the UK as it aims to give fans the chance to interact with each other while games are being played."
That could be the start of a major new shift for Twitch, because while the platform is dedicated to gaming, FIFA 20 and NBA 2K are hugely popular titles among game streamers on the site. That also likely means that a lot of Twitch users are crossover fans of those (and other) sports, and with the added engagement and community behaviors on the platform, it could be that Twitch ends up being the platform that's finally able to merge the benefits of both, and maximize the engagement around live events on a single, unified platform.
That could have significant benefits for advertisers, and might even make Twitch a more popular site among sporting fans in general, as opposed to the noted crossover audience. If the best conversation is happening on Twitch, more fans will come across.
Facebook actually released a new app recently, trying to tap into the same trend. With sporting fans unable to attend live events due to COVID-19, Facebook released 'Venue', which merges real-time viewing with community commentary.
Twitch, again, may be better suited to such, and if Twitch can facilitate more interaction around live sports, as it does with video games, that could be the start of a whole new trend, with Twitch's younger audience leading the way into the next stage of at-home sports engagement.
And that's not the only front where Twitch is seeing higher activity - this week, Bloomberg reported that the platform is also becoming a key focus for musicians as they seek to maintain connection with their fans.
As per Bloomberg:
"In May, people spent almost 27 million hours watching live music and other performing arts on Twitch, according to StreamElements, more than five times January’s total. And music is now one of the top 15 genres on the site."
Twitch has the audience engagement, it has younger users already engaging. And now, it's finding more use cases for such, which could make Twitch a more relevant platform for advertisers in the near future.
It may not be as big a consideration as YouTube or Facebook, or even Twitter in terms of reaching a wider audience. But it should be on your radar. Twitch currently serves around 37.5 million monthly active viewers, and is projected to see steady increases moving forward.
Twitch has seen a massive surge in interest during COVID-19, and it's increasingly where younger audiences are hanging out.
It'll be worth monitoring the data on its coming Premier League streams to see how audiences respond.